By Pat Launer
From Simon to deSade , Shaw to Puccini,
New plays and old, and everything in- betweeny .
Artists and socialists, prisoners and loonies
Comedy and drama and operatic tuneys .
When George Bernard Shaw’s “Misalliance” opened in London in 1909, the Times critic called it “a debating society of a lunatic asylum,” observing that the characters “do not keep to the point because there is no point to keep to.” Well, it is what’s called “a discussion play,” and though it’s 100 years old, the subjects under discussion are surprisingly fresh: youth and age, marriage and sex (which never go out of style) as well as feminism, socialism and even terrorism. Shaw was breaking new ground for his time, experimenting with form and structure. Unlike most comedies, his featured a series of scenelets between characters who acted on their desires and ultimately came to terms with their lives and with one another. It took years for the play to overcome its reputation as one of the Grand Master’s failures. But it was a big success when it opened in New York in 1953.
So here it is now, making a comeback at the Old Globe, under the direction of Stephen Wadsworth, whose productions have won acclaim here and abroad, most recently at the Globe last year with his magnificent “Don Juan.”
This production’s a bit more problematic, though. For one thing, the acting approaches are jarringly varied through the course of the play, and the accents just don’t seem to make the all-important class distinctions, although the costumes (designed by Anna Oliver) certainly do, with panache. The presentational style of acting applied in the first act (stand downstage, face the audience, and emote, regardless of where your interlocutor is located) gets tiresome and repetitive. The “talk, talk, talk” that the ingénue, Hypatia , complains of (but also contributes to) does go on. At least until the pilot drops in (literally) and the action and interactions really heat up. The second act is frenetic, and whether in an attempt to emphasize the conflicts and complexities or to rush the proceedings along (though they still clock in at nearly three hours), Wadsworth has his cast racing breathlessly through their lines. Even as a fast-talking/fast-listening New Yorker, the dialogue was going by too rapidly for me – especially when it’s often rather high in content and ruminations.
But there are some really beautiful moments, and some delicious performances in this production. The fathers are particularly poignant – Jeff Steitzer delightful as Tarleton (despite the wavering North Country accent), the bourgeois, nouveau riche underwear magnate, a book-obsessed auto- didact . As his counterpart, and his future in-law, Nicholas Hormann is wonderfully regal and rueful as Lord Summerhays . Both have inadequate sons: Tarleton’s is the brashly doltish Johnny (Dylan Chalfy ) and Summerhays ’ is the obnoxiously upper crust, foppishly effete crybaby, Bentley, aka Bunny (perfectly portrayed by Oliver Wadsworth). Bunny is the improbable fiancé of Tartleton’s other offspring, the restless Hypatia (played by Mary Bacon with impetuous youth and frustrated sexuality, but also a strident sameness of expression and annoyingly abrupt, jerky moves). Tired of her society’s female-subjugating mores, Hypatia is so bored she just wants some adventure to drop into her life, which of course, it does, in the ‘ aeroplane ’ that plummets out of the sky into the gorgeous greenhouse (beautifully designed by Kevin Rupnik ). Out tumble the cocky pilot, Joey Percival (Jeremy Webb) and the magnificently supercilious libertine, Lina Szczepanowska (the striking, commanding and simply marvelous Lise Bruneau), a Polish acrobat/dominatrix who, transcending traditional gender roles and boundaries, is naturally irresistible to all the faithless, lusty men in the house. The last unexpected addition is an intruder (wonderfully played by UCSD alum Adam Stein), an embittered bank clerk who’s come, gun in hand, to defend his late mother’s honor, besmirched years ago by the adulterous Tarleton . Amid all the mayhem and mismatches, the motherly Mrs. Tarleton (Sarah Brooke) maintains a sense of sense and stability.
The moral and social attitudes of each character are put to the test, and dealing with their fulminating sexual energies forces them to see the bankruptcy of the institutions that define their lives. The ‘button’ with which Wadsworth ends the piece leaves Lord Summerhays alone onstage, left behind, sadly, wistfully watching the world go by – the two women he’s propositioned run off with far younger men, the saplings cavorting with sensual abandon, and newfangled inventions and political models replacing the old, familiar ways. An aptly contemplative conclusion reminiscent of “The Cherry Orchard,” with old Firs left to watch the Old give way to the New.
Shaw himself dubbed (and subtitled) his often-didactic creation “A Debate in One Sitting,” though he peppered the mix with many an epigrammatic witticism. His original title for the piece, “Just Exactly Nothing,” suggests that he wondered about the depth and significance of his own construct. Undoubtedly, the play is smart and laden (overloaded?) with ideas. But in many ways, it’s a comedic Victorian soap opera, the relentless sexual innuendo tempered by social commentary. With all its humor, the lengthy piece still requires attention and careful listening, and a willingness to spend an evening with a roomful of generally unsavory, if occasionally amusing characters. It’s just not everyone’s cup of English tea.
At the Old Globe, through June 12.
VIVA LA VIE BOHÈME
The San Diego Opera brought its 40th anniversary season to a climactic close with the work that began it all, the beloved “La Bohème .” It was the first opera general director Ian Campbell ever heard on record (as a young boy in Australia , in 1959), the first he ever saw (at age 17, in 1963), the first he ever directed , and the first performed by San Diego Opera. So it’s all come full circle. Campbell originally tackled Puccini’s masterpiece in 1981; the inaugural local production was at the ‘new’ Civic Theatre in 1965. It remains the company’s most frequently produced opera. This was the ninth mounting of the audience favorite that premiered in Italy in 1896.
The linear, lyrical story is set in the 1830s, in Paris ’ Latin Quarter , home to a group of starving but fun-loving artist/Bohemians. The endearing work (libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica ), based on Henri Mürger’s autobiographical 1851 novel, “ Scènes de la vie Bohème ,” employs comedy, tragedy, drama and tenderness in telling the story of the frail, tubercular seamstress, Mimi, and the struggling poet Rodolfo, who lights her candle in more ways than one. They fall into an intense winter romance, but can’t seem to stay together through the spring. When her illness worsens, they are briefly, sadly reunited.
New York-based Richard Leech, a frequent and always-welcome San Diego visitor who’s played Rodolfo many times (most recently in San Diego a decade ago), brought his confident tenor and credible acting to the production. Argentine soprano Fabiana Bravo was new to her role and to the local company; she got off to a subdued start. The first meeting of the on again/off again lovers, marked by the magnificent Mi chiamano Mimi (“They call me Mimi” and Che gelida manian (“Your tiny hand is frozen”) seemed a bit tentative, with Bravo reticent and pianissimo, retaining her bold, full-bodied tones for later, and Leech more vocally robust and dramatically playful. There wasn’t a palpable chemistry between them, though under Campbell ’s direction, all the intimacies and romantic moves were there. Later, they seemed more connected; Leech remained attentive and solicitous, though Bravo always seemed to be holding back a bit emotionally. But their final moments together delivered the heart-rending goods.
The secondary characters were uniformly enchanting. German soprano Ute Selbig livened up the crowded Café Momus scene, where the large cast of supernumeraries seemed stuffed into a small space upstage. Selbig also brought her big, bright voice and fiery presence to her self-adulatory Quando m’en vo ’ soletta per la via (“When I walk anywhere”), and to her tempestuous relationship with the artist Marcello (a high-spirited and robust portrayal by baritone Scott Hendricks).
Campbell provided especially lively action for the jocular scenes in the garret with the dynamic quartet of artists, including Leech, Hendricks, bass-baritone James Scott Sikon as the musician Schaunard and Australian bass/baritone Andrew Collis as the philosopher Colline (who later rhapsodizes, marvelously, to his soon-to-be-sold overcoat in the aria Vecchia zimarra ). Perhaps it required a tad of imagination-stretch to see these performers as young and starving bohos , but their acting and singing made up for the visual/cognitive dissonance.
The score undoubtedly contains some of Puccini’s most beautiful music, and the orchestra was under the confident and capable hands of conductor Edoardo Muller. The supertitle translation, provided by Campbell himself, was lovely and poetic. The company’s previously used sets, designed by John Conklin, were aptly suggestive– stark and angular for the garret, joyfully Toulouse-like for the Momus /street scene. The lighting (Chris Rynne) was a bit enigmatic, at least in the Act I Mimi/Rodolfo meeting scene of darkness, candles and moonlight, where there were virtually no lighting variations. But later effects (the street scene, the lanterns, the dying light as Mimi fades), were lovely. The costumes (designed by Martin Pakledinaz for the Seattle Opera) were excellent and the supers were in vibrant voice. Overall, the Opera brought its celebrational season to a climactic close. Leech and Selbig will be back next year, he in “Lucia di Lammermoor ,” she in “The Magic Flute,” wherein we’ll be treated again to Zandra Rhodes’ spectacular, Patté Award-winning costumes from 2001. Be there!
Neil Simon is, after Shakespeare, the most performed playwright of all time. Best known for his lighthearted comedies of middle-class life, he has ventured into darker territory, with varying success. “The Gingerbread Lady” (produced last year by Renaissance Theatre), about a failed chanteuse dealing with alcoholism, was not well received. It was followed, in 1971, by “The Prisoner of Second Avenue ,” which has plenty of the signature laugh-lines, but has the bleak, timely theme of a mental breakdown under the stress of modern urban life. Mel’s in distress from the outset. He’s lost his 20-year job, his home has been burglarized and everything portable (including most of his wardrobe) has been carted off. His annoying neighbors are driving him nuts. And his squabbling sibs are no help either. His only source of support (emotional and financial) is his capable and resourceful wife, Edna.
On Broadway, the roles were played by Peter Falk and Lee Grant. On film (1975), it was Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft. And in Vista , it’s Pat Moran and Katherine Forbes – who acquit themselves extremely well at the fledgling, 49-seat Broadway Theater. Moran proves himself a master of angst, anger and comic timing, and Forbes provides humor and ballast. Director Terri Miller Schmidt, a recent transplant from Orange County who’s been honored for her directing, producing and performing (including the 2000 Woman of the Year in Orange County Theater award) has shepherded them through the roller-coaster ride that is their life. She’s a bit less successful with the secondary characters; once the quartet of Mel’s sibs enters, the pace slows considerably, and loses some of its comic edge. These aren’t fully-fleshed characters; they’re just more comic relief from Mel’s shocking, catatonic decline (wonderfully rendered by Moran). But June Gottlieb (looking great in a wig, head-scarf and garishly colored ‘70s outfit), Robert De Lillo (as Harry, the humorous number-cruncher), putty-faced Lucy Ann Albert and Maude-like Orolie Gubser each get some spotlight time and laughs.
To read the program is to see what starting a theater is all about. Randall Hickman and his partner, Douglas Davis, are listed as producers and for set design (Davis), set decoration (both), light and sound design, program and publicity, box office manager and photography (the many –other- faces and hats of Hickman). These guys have really done a wonderful job in jump-starting a new theater in perilous times. Long may they wave!
‘WHAT’S THE USE OF A REVOLUTION WITHOUT GENERAL COPULATION?’
Even longer than “ Marat/Sade’s ” full, plot-synopsis title (“The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade ”) is the cast list at UCSD (30+).
Written by Peter Weiss, the play made its debut in 1964 in the writer’s native Germany . The next year, the Royal Shakespeare Company production, under the surreal, symbolic direction of that ground-breaker, Peter Brook, went to Broadway, and in 1967, was made into a film. Since then, we don’t get to see the play that often; the “theater of cruelty” is out of fashion, and it’s hard to give audiences the “kick in the balls” Brook intended. Nonetheless, the piece is a mammoth undertaking, and still a disturbing one. The time is certainly right (when the inmates are running the asylum!) and UCSD certainly has the right esthetic. Under the aegis of highly regarded L.A.-based director Stefan Novinski (an MFA graduate of UCSD), the stylized, imagistic production is provocative, to say the least, replete with highly imaginative staging and riveting stage pictures, though some audience members seemed to get lost in the mass of history and ideas.
Critics have been warned not to formally review the show, which is an undergraduate production and features o mixed-bag of theater majors and those who are minoring in theater or just dipping their dramatic toes in the water (perhaps just to help with shyness or self-esteem issues). Therefore, the faculty eschews both negativity and star-quality singling out. So I’ll try to be as circumspect as possible.
The play opens on a cage-full of loonies (designed by the wildly imaginative Melpomene Katakalos , who graduates with her MFA next month), huddled or roaming aimlessly in a stark space outfitted with a range of implements of torture, euphemistically called “instruments of mental and physical hygiene.” The design makes excellent, one-sided use of the new Potiker Theater, which is a far more satisfying layout than the basketball-court arrangement of the theater’s inaugural production, the La Jolla Playhouse’s “Private Fittings.”
However, we never feel, as we should with this play, either threatened or seduced by the spectacle. We remain distant observers, watching a piece of history unfold. This is the major shortcoming of the production. But what’s there, and what’s done, is quite wonderful. Inventive dancer grace shinhae jun (who teaches at UCSD) created the excellent, stylized movement. The costumes are spot-on for the patients, the Marquis de Sade and the visiting royalty. The primary roles are primarily played by theater majors, but I won’t make mention of anyone in particular. Suffice it to say that they were all committed (double entendre) and credible, even if the cast as a whole was varied in musical and dramatic skill. As a side-note, there’s a pronunciation specialist listed, but few performers seem able to pronounce Marat’s name accurately, with a French ‘r’. The angular, often jarring music was performed onstage by a pianist, violinist, flutist and noisemakers. Searing and effective.
Playwright Weiss’ conceit is brilliantly rooted in history, not only that of the Terror in the wake of the French Revolution (some of whose principals figure in the play-within-a-play that constitutes most of the action) but also in the situation of the play itself. From 1801 until his death in 1814, the Marquis de Sade was indeed incarcerated, for his lewd writings, at the asylum of Charenton , which is described in Weiss’ notes as “a hiding place for the moral rejects of civilized society,” whether they were lunatics or not. This after his 13 years of confinement in the Bastille. While he was at Charenton , he really did write and produce plays in which his fellow inmates performed. In the play, Weiss imagines a de Sade entertainment that depicts the 1793 murder of the radical French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat , who espoused social revolution at all costs, by Charlotte Corday , an inflamed moderate who was immediately arrested and shortly thereafter, greeted by Madame Guillotine.
We serve as the 1808 audience; as a publicity stunt, the asylum’s director has invited the public in to watch the opening performance. He sits in judgment, perched and discomfited, repeatedly threatening to close down the production if the historical record veers over the line into criticism of our own “more civilized times.” The ‘actors’ often have to be subdued or shaken. Marat is played by a paranoiac, Corday by a narcoleptic who has to be awakened for her cues. Her platonic cohort/ally Duperret is portrayed by a debauched pervert who keeps groping poor ‘ Charlotte .’ They are surrounded by a frightening array of crazies and zanies, some of whom are periodically stretched on the rack or beaten or stuffed away for a psychiatric ‘time out.’ All the talk of revolution ultimately spurs orgiastic chaos, an inevitable desire for revolt. But there are guards and nuns and strong-arms to keep everyone under control.
Despite all the provocation and histrionics, this is primarily a play of ideas, pitting Marat’s revolutionary socialism against de Sade’s anarchic nihilism. The political dialectic is rooted in the 1960s but feels once again, in the throes of a pointless war and ever-expanding class distinctions, startlingly relevant.
“We have jobs,” the poor claim sarcastically, “waiting for work. “We’re the poor, and the poor stay poor,” they sing. “We demand an end to war, which is run for the benefit of profiteers. Those who started it must be held responsible.” To which the director calmly replies, “Our soldiers are fighting for our freedom.”
“See how easily a crowd turns mob?” asks the Narrator.
”My patriotism’s bigger than yours,” asserts de Sade . “Now I see where the revolution is leading – to the withering of individual Man, the slow merging to uniformity.”
Marat declares, “We invented the Revolution but we don’t know how to run it.” “We can’t begin to build until we break the old building down.”
“Nobody now objects to the church,” says the Director, comparing the past to his present. “There’s no question of anyone being oppressed.” “Though we’re now at war,” the Director concludes, “everyone can see it can only end in victory.”
“We should all carry weapons in self-defense,” says Charlotte Corday .
Though the isolated quotes can be chilling, at times the debate leans toward the arcane, and the trappings become more interesting than the substance. And yet, there is no doubt that the play is worth seeing. And (no names singled out), this production, too.
In the new Potiker Theatre, on the campus of UCSD, through May 22.
Perry Como sings “Catch a Falling Star” before, during and after Lee Murphy’s play of the same name. Cast members sing it, too. It’s the dysfunctional family theme song, the way to take the edge off, provide unity in unison and underline the hoped-for stardom of pert and talented young Ginny. Now it’s the early ‘80s, Ginny is about to turn 33, and her star has definitely dimmed. We meet her in the airport as she reluctantly makes the journey home to Dewey , Texas , where an expectant family awaits her homecoming. But she’s not there to celebrate; she’s trying to forewarn her relations that an exposé is about to run in People magazine, revealing all the sordid details of her divorce, drug addiction and porn films. But her monstrously controlling, manipulative Mom has planned a parade and picnic, with Ginny as centerpiece. Her no-nonsense, oversexed sister is envious, as usual. Her father is drunk, as usual. Her brother-in-law is spaced-out, as usual. And her niece is ever-adoring. The male characters (played, amusingly, by George Weinberg-Harter and Michael Barnett) are far less well defined than the females, who can scratch each other’s eyes out (literally, in terms of the sister; emotionally, in the case of Good Ole ‘Catch A Falling Star’-singing Mom). Especially terrific are the two and three-way interactions among Ginny (the strikingly attractive and believably conflicted, naïve and down-home Lauren Zimmerman, co-founder of Backyard Productions), her sister (humorously played with coarse, neurotic, tight- jeaned , food-bingeing voluptuousness by Renee Sinoneau ) and her mother (the deliciously guilt-tripping, overbearing, Texas-twanging Jo-Darlene Reardon). As the fawning and ultimately disappointed Sheree Marie, young Katie Knepper shows promise as an actor; it’s in the blood. Knepper is the daughter of Simonau , who’s the daughter of director D.J. Sullivan.
Sullivan, who’s been directing in San Diego for nearly 50 years, founded the Sullivan Players in 2004 “to give opportunities for lesser-known professional actors and to produce great plays that have not been widely seen by San Diego audiences.” She is a favorite of many local actors; her students were notable in the audience, and former mentees of coach Sullivan include Daren Scott and Devlin, who co-starred in Sullivan’s provocative production of “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune .” But Devlin’s no longer a plus-plus-sized woman, and Scott and many other DJ devotees are coming out in full force Friday night to hear her belt out the blues (and jazz and show-tunes) at Schroeder’s Club and Cabaret at the Westin Horton Plaza . I’ll be there, too!).
Meanwhile, back to Murphy’s play, which premiered in L.A. in 1995, and sports a credible Texas voice and some genuine humor and heart, though it does tug a bit heavily on the emotions and it lasts longer than it should. The director is a friend of the first-time playwright, an L.A. actor/writer/TV producer. As budding L.A. actors, the two roomed together for ten years. And when all involved added it up, they calculated that the cast and writer have known Ms. Sullivan for a combined 97 years. Now that’s a theater family.
At the Swedenborgian Church Social Hall; final performance May 21.
Last chance! Don’t miss the documentary, “ Corridos Remix” continues at the San Diego Rep, the documentary, “The Legacy of Luis Valdez, Father of Chicano Theater,” which airs on KPBS on this final weekend of “ Corridos Remix” at the San Diego Rep. I wrote and co-produced this short, 25-minute documentary with CityTV , and it’s packed with insights and archival footage. Friday, May 20 at 10:30pm on KPBS-TV (channel 15, cable 11).
A WHITMAN SAMPLER
Beloved poet Walt Whitman will be making a special appearance at 6th @ Penn Theatre to deliver his lecture on the murder of President Lincoln. Actor David Cohen will lend body and voice to the acclaimed creator of, among other things, “Leaves of Grass.” For the last 25 years of his life, Whitman appeared in public places and private gatherings, retelling his take on the events that occurred at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, and capped it with the recitation of his famous Lincoln-inspired poem, “O Captain, My Captain!”
Cohen, co-founder of Grass Roots Greeks and a long-time student and interpreter of Whitman’s work, most recently channeled the great man in a touching performance of the elegiac “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d .”
Lincoln Lecture , May 23-25, 7:30pm at 6th @ Penn Theatre.
THAT’S FUNNY… THEY DON’T ALL LOOK JEWISH!
The 12th annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival is coming in June to the San Diego Repertory Theatre. Festival artistic director Todd Salovey promises music, dance, theater and speakers from around the world, celebrating the diversity of the Jewish diaspora . A few dramatic highlights:
“A Very Jewish King” by playwright and UCSD professor Allan Havis. This adaptation of Shakespeare’s “King Lear” (recently staged in its original form at the Rep) received the National Foundation for Jewish Culture New Play Award. The world premiere focuses on the leading actor of the Yiddish Theatre who’s passing his legacy to his three actor/daughters. Directed by Salovey, the staged reading stars TV’s Stephen Macht (“Raid on Entebbe ”) as the father and Armin Shimerman (“Star Trek: Deep Space Nice,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the Fool in the Rep’s “Lear”) as his comical brother. I’ll be there to introduce the play and lead a post-performance discussion.
Wednesday, June 1 at 7:30, Lyceum Space.
“ Yiske Labushnik : A Fiddler’s Travels” is a newly revised version of writer/musician/composer Yale Strom’s dramatic story of a klezmer musician on the run in Eastern Europe, told with live music, singing and stories collected from Memorial Books in Eastern Europe. Also a winner of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture New Play commission. Strom plays violin, and award-winning actor Avi Hoffman (“Too Jewish,” see below) plays the title role.
Monday June 6 and Tuesday June 7, 7pm at North Coast Repertory Theatre.
“Too Jewish? A Mensch and His Musical,” conceived, written and performed by Avi Hoffman, who’s presented the piece over 2000 times nationwide. He won L.A. ’s Ovation Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his exploration of his Jewish roots. Features songs and comedy routines by some of the Jewish Greats: Henny Youngman, Mel Brooks, Rodney Dangerfield and the Marx Brothers, whose material formed the bridge from the Old World to the New. The New York Times called it “Hilarious! Warm and winning.”
Wednesday, June 8, 7:30pm in the Lyceum Space.
Jewish Idols? A Showcase for Talented San Diego Jewish Youth
See the next generation of Jewish stars (not the six-pointed variety!). Host Zeji Ozeri welcomes musicians, dancers, theatermakers, and more.
Sunday, June 12, 2pm at the Lyceum Space.
NOW, FOR WHAT’S ‘NOT TO BE MISSED!‘ (i.e., Critic’s Picks )
THROUGH THIS WEEKEND ONLY:
“ Marat/Sade ” – guest director Stefan Novinski has highlighted the eerily relevant elements of the ‘60s spectacle about the French Revolution and its aftermath. A huge cast, and provocative staging. Rarely done and shouldn’t be missed.
In the new Potiker Theatre, on the campus of UCSD, through May 22.
“ Corridos REMIX” – Luis Valdez is back onstage after a decades-long hiatus, and that alone is worth the trip. But so’s this irresistible cross-cultural celebration of the Americas , as told in narrative song. A star is born in Yvette Gonzalez- Nacer ; see her now, before she’s hurtled into the theatrical stratosphere.
At the San Diego Repertory Theatre, through May 22.
“Metamorphoses” – lovely re-creation of Mary Zimmerman brilliant creation (pool and all!), extremely well designed, dressed and directed.
At Lamb’s Players Theatre, extended through May 22.
“Raisin’ the Rent” – hand-clappin’, foot-stompin’, heartbreakin ’ jazz and blues, sung in cabaret style by six killer performers. At Caesar’s Café downtown, through May 22.
“Pageant” – where the girls are guys and the competition is ferocious. Loads of smarm and charm, and a lot of laughs.
At Cygnet Theatre, extended through May 22.
“Late Nite Catechism” – ‘class,’ whether Catholic or secular, with or without ruler-whacking, was never this hilarious. Three alternating ‘Sisters’ explain it all and interact with the audience. Be careful what you wear, say or do. Sister is watching.
At North Coast Repertory Theatre, Monday and Tuesday nights, extended through June 28.
“The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron” – a fun date night, which shows both genders a few of their more amusing and infuriating foibles.
At the Theatre in Old Town , ongoing.
The season is heating up; see some hot stuff in the theater!
©2005 Patté Productions Inc.